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The EU Ban on the LTTE

Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay was Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • June 06, 2006

    The European Union finally decided to add the LTTE to its list of terrorist organisations on May 29. The Tigers would have seen the ban coming, when on May 17 the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on the situation in Sri Lanka, in which it strongly condemned the LTTE attacks on a Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) vessel a week earlier. The decision was in fact expected for some time, given that the EU had decided to deny official receptions to LTTE delegations earlier on September 26, 2005. The EU went ahead with its decision to term the LTTE a terrorist organisation in spite of the latter's warning that Brussels' prohibition would lead it to go to war. The LTTE had in fact staged protest demonstrations in Nordic capitals against the impending ban.

    Though it is still early days to assess the implications of the EU ban on the LTTE, it is useful to consider the eventual consequences of the prohibition order in the twenty five member nations of the bloc. In fact, some European nations had actually been monitoring the activities of the LTTE on their soil for years. The latest Annual Report (2005) of the German internal intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of Constitution (BfV), has estimated the total strength of the Tigers in Germany at about 800. The maximum strength of the LTTE in Germany is concentrated in one federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia. According to the state security agency of North Rhine-Westphalia, organisations like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) and the Tamil Co-ordination Committee (TCC) collect funds for the Tigers by organising various cultural and social events around the year. In its Annual Report for 2005, the North Rhine-Westphalian state security agency has noted that without continuous financial support from abroad, the LTTE would not be able to achieve its goal and keep its military apparatus intact in Sri Lanka.

    At the same time, the LTTE's continuing activities among the Tamil diaspora in non-EU European nations, like Norway and Switzerland, have also been a matter of concern. The TRO opened its first foreign office in Switzerland in 1985, even before it did so in London. In Norway, LTTE front organisations have remained major fund providers. It is estimated that given the 10,000-strong Tamil population in Norway, the LTTE has been able to raise US$5 million a year. Moreover, through various companies and business concerns set up in other European countries, the LTTE's leadership in Europe has been sending considerable amounts of money to Sri Lanka. Apart from forcible collection of funds from the diaspora, another matter of concern has been the LTTE's intimidation of Tamil leaders who do not toe its line.

    Against this background, it needs to be seen what form EU restrictions are likely to assume. The declaration of the incumbent Austrian presidency specifies three measures: (i) freezing of funds and economic resources of specified persons and entities; (ii) banning the provision of direct and indirect funds; (iii) police and judicial co-operation amongst the member states. These measures are in tune with the European Council's Common Position and Regulation on specific measures to combat terrorism (adopted on December 27, 2001). Importantly, the Regulation is applicable within the EU territory and airspace; to the aircraft and vessels of any member state; and to any national of EU member states elsewhere. Certainly, the EU prohibition would not only restrict the public activities of known LTTE leaders, fund raisers and sympathisers in Europe but also strongly affect the movements of LTTE delegations wishing to visit any EU member nation. Attachment of LTTE assets and funds may not be so substantive as a measure at this juncture, however, because it is very likely that the LTTE, apprehending a ban, has already diverted its resources towards 'safe' and untraceable destinations.

    Nevertheless some complications in this prohibition, which may make its implementation problematic, would arise due to the complex and overlapping European governance and political structures. For instance, Norway and Iceland are not members of the EU, though they are members of the common visa system, Schengen. Earlier instances suggest that known terrorists and criminals, who are well aware of the loopholes and privileges under divergent national and European laws, have exploited these. It would therefore be an arduous task for EU and non-EU European nations to co-ordinate their approach in this particular matter. The fact that such co-ordination would prove rather difficult is exemplified by a recent incident in which a Hamas minister obtained a Schengen visa from Sweden and subsequently used it to travel to Germany. Two important legal tools like the European Arrest Warrant and the European Evidence Warrant, which are aimed at better coordination in the area of police and judicial cooperation, may be agreed to at the level of the European Union, though these are likely to face obstacles from time to time from national judiciaries and law-enforcement agencies. Moreover, the sensitivity of member states in the area of Justice and Home Affairs is also likely to pose hindrances on and off for effective prohibition.

    At present due to its prohibition and marginalisation at the international level, the LTTE is bound to lose its advantages in terms of overt fund collection, the movement of its leadership and the ability to influence the international media and opinion. Such an increasingly restricted international space would in turn make the LTTE display its earnestness for the peace process. The EU is expected to continuously monitor the situation in Sri Lanka and remain focused not only on the LTTE but also on the break-way faction of Colonel Karuna as well as the Sri Lankan government.

    As per the provision in the European Council's Common Position Paper on Terrorism, a half-yearly revision needs to be done to keep any organisation on its list of terrorist organisations. Given that the onus predominantly lies on the LTTE to demonstrate its commitment to the drawn-out peace process, tighter vigil and prohibition on its activities, need to be strictly exercised.